How to Get On a Melges 24 Worlds Podium

How to Get On a Melges 24 Worlds Podium

The Anacortes-based Melges 24 MiKEY, skippered by Kevin Welch, finished an amazing third in the open fleet Melges 24 Worlds in Helsinki, Finland July 28-August 4. Ian Sloan gives us insights into the event and what it takes to race at that level. 

I would say the primary key to success was time in the boat. We shipped our boat to Sweden in April, and sailed the Nordic Championship in Marstrand in June. We sailed six days in Marstrand and came in 4th in that event. It’s an amazing place to sail: windy and quite big seas, and it was very good preparation for the Worlds in Helsinki.

In late June we joined a group of Victoria boats for a two day training session in the Royal Roads area, the venue of the 2018 Worlds. This was a great two days of sailing where we tested a couple of new sails and got to sail on the racecourse of the 2018 Worlds.

Then in July we sailed the North American Championship in the Gorge, one of our favorite places to sail. While the conditions in the Gorge are unlike anyplace else, it is a perfect place for heavy air training. We enjoyed fantastic sailing conditions with another 6 days of sailing. During this event we continued to learn and develop our rig tune and sail setup.

You’d think that after sailing the Melges 24 for eight years we would have it figured out but it’s amazing that nothing is ever set in stone and we continue to learn more and more about getting the boat tuned and balanced correctly. We won the North American Championship beating out some great local teams. It’s really exciting to see the level of sailing here in the PNW continue to improve in all the teams. I always say, it’s not about what level you are currently at, but rather about improvement every time you sail. That’s what keeps teams going.

Click on any photo to enlarge.

More photos here. Results here.

Two days after returning home from the Gorge we flew to Helsinki to prepare for the Worlds. In Helsinki we enjoyed five days of training prior to the start of racing. We used a couple things we learned at the Gorge to further fine tune our rig setup (of course a different boat and nothing is ever as simple as just “making it the same”!) Again, what we’ve figured out is that setting these boats up is always a moving target, and there are no hard rules how it should be done. There is always something more to get. So, in the two weeks leading into racing we had sailed 11 days. There is nothing more important than time in the boat!

I would say the other primary keys to our success were:

1) No big numbers! It was a primary goal to not have any “shockers” during the event. This is so important in big fleets. We achieved this goal, finishing the event with the best throwout of the regatta, a 19th.

2) Speed. We work tirelessly to constantly improve our speed. Speed makes the tacticians job much easier. There are always gains to be made, and our team has been extremely fastidious about pulling every ounce of boatspeed out of the boat.

3) Never, ever, give up or think you can’t make back a deficit. We were in some extremely difficult positions during the Worlds. The racecourse was very volatile a few days of the regatta, and it was very easy to get frustrated with a poor position or rough shift. We managed to keep our heads screwed on straight and keep fighting till the end, which is a primary reason we didn’t have any really poor finishes (see #1 above).

4) Preparation. We spend an inordinate amount of time going over our boat and our equipment. This resulted in no mechanical or equipment failures, which will end your regatta very quickly. Lucky Dog, a very strong US team, broke not one but TWO jib halyards on day 2 of the regatta and thus they had no chance of a top finish.

5) Dedication. Our team, led by owner Kevin Welch, is extremely dedicated to success. There is never a time we don’t think about how we can improve and how to work towards that end. We are so lucky to have someone as dedicated as Kevin to making this happen. He has provided unwavering support for our team for many years. It was very nice to see his dedication and everyone’s hard work pay off with a podium finish at the Worlds!

Our crew consisted of Kevin Welch, Jason Rhodes, Ross Macdonald, Serena Vilage,Ian Sloan and Jeff Madrigali (coach)

Looking ahead we have the Canadian Nationals in Toronto in September. Then our local PSSC in Seattle in October. In November we will start our winter season in Florida and some longer training sessions down there in the warmer climate… All this is in preparation for the 2018 World Championship in Victoria BC in June next year!

Thanks, Ian, for sharing the story of the Melges 24 Worlds. Once again, it’s great to see PNW sailors “out there” doing well and bringing those lessons home to the rest of us. Ian Sloan owns Anacortes Rigging and Yacht Services.

Why Don’t They Make Boats Like These?

Why Don’t They Make Boats Like These?

Craig Horsfield has a whole lot of miles under his various keels, and in various places around the world. Locally to the Salish Sea, he had a successful Olson 30 program with Wild Turkey for several years. He’s done the Cape to Rio Race. Most significantly, he’s completed two Mini Transat races in the Open 650 class. One thing he hadn’t done was cruise with his wife Carolyn and (6 year old) daughter Anna. 

That changed this summer when he chartered a Pogo 30 from Fast Downwind Charters. This company specializes in chartering Pogo boats on the Baltic. Having owned a Pogo II Mini, Horsfield was eager to see what they could do with a 30-foot fast cruiser. Joined by Carolyn’s sister Jen and her husband Mark, the crew of five braved the Baltic, cruised some really interesting waters most of us will never see, and got to experience a truly modern fast cruiser. First up, Carolyn on the cruise. Then Craig drools a bit over the Pogo.

The Cruise (Carolyn Hutcheon)

We flew in and out of Hamburg, Germany, which is a 2-hour train ride from Rostock, where the boat was based. Andreas of Fast Downwind Charters picked us up at the train station and we spent the next day going over the boat with him and stocking up on supplies. The dock was was close to a grocery store and restaurants, bars and even a discotheque. But it’s a 1-1.5 hour motor down a dredged channel from the Baltic Sea. At the mouth of the channel is the town of Wärnemunde, where we went for dinner on our first night. With its white sand beaches and old architecture, it was a favorite Communist-era resort town and is still alive with restaurants and shops, cruise ships and summer festivals.

There are many options when sailing out of Rostock and the secret is go where the wind takes you. July and August are the best times to go because the days are long and the winter storms have passed. Unluckily, we arrived right before an unseasonable storm was coming. 

If the wind is southwest or easterly then head to the islands south of Fyn, with a stop over in Heiligenhafen. Here are islands to hop and 1000-year old Danish villages to visit, as well as the stunning Alsen-Sund which is well protected in case of rough weather. With a northwest situation, sail up to Copenhagen with a stop over in Klintholm and spend a few days visiting the city. You can then sail around the big Danish islands with their quaint fishing villages, leaving Sweden to your right. This is a longer trip, and requires wind and longer sailing days to cover the distance. It wasn’t in the cards for us this time.

With a storm coming in, we had only 12 hours to sail out and get to safe harbor where we would wait the storm out for the next two days. We decided to sail on the westerly to the island of Hiddensee and the protected waters of the West Rügen Bodden (lagoon) in North Eastern Germany.

The Pogo 30 is fast downwind. It is easily sailed single-handedly, which was good when there is one experienced sailor and 3 (and a half) inexperienced ones.

Everything on the island of Hiddensee is close and accessible by bike or on foot. From Kloster, we spent a morning walking to the neighboring town of Vitte. With the only motorized vehicles on the island being one ambulance and some farm equipment, there was no need to watch for traffic and we could admire the wildflowers and pastures, wetlands, and dunes from along the roadway instead. Visitors can also rent bikes to take them from Kloster to Vitte to Neuendorf.

From the marina in Kloster, it was a 2 km walk to the Dornbusch Lighthouse and the highest point on the island. Along the wooded trail were open areas with wooden sculptures – a bed, a window frame, a giant caterpillar – that put the views across the Vitter Bodden to the Island of Rügen and across the Baltic Sea to Denmark into perspective.

The West Rügen Bodden or lagoons are shallow and ports are accessed through a network of dredged channels that are at least 3.7 m deep. The Pogo 30 has a lifting keel, but even with the keel up it draws 2.5 m. We were hesitant to sail through the shallow waters, and not terribly excited about motoring, so chose instead to take one of the many ferries to the nearby island of Rügen, where we spent a day exploring the village of Schaprode. A longer ferry ride would have taken us to the town of Stralsund, with its eclectic maritime museum and old town UNESCO (United Nations Educational Scientic Cultural Organization) heritage site.

With calmer seas, we crossed the Baltic to the village of Klintholm, on the island of Møn in Denmark. As we approached the harbor entrance, we joined what seemed like a caravan of cruising boats. We docked, and watched as the cruising boats kept coming. Klintholm is a popular and convenient stop for Baltic cruisers. Our dock neighbors were a German couple who were heading towards Sweden and were planning to “keep sailing north until they stopped.”   There are several restaurants, but we nevertheless took the opportunity to stock up on groceries and herbs from the marina’s free herb garden and had a least one dinner on the marina picnic bench in the long mid-summer twilight.

Klintholm Havn (Harbor) is about 5 km away from the chalk cliffs of Møn, the highest point in Denmark. We rented bicycles at the village grocery store and cycled out to see the cliffs. There is geological museum that we didn’t go into – it was crowded, as were the walkways to and from the beach. More secluded was the walk down to the beach at the base of the cliffs from the Møn lighthouse. Here the cliffs aren’t as tall, but there is room to breathe and to explore.

The days passed too quickly and we were due back in Rostock, so we once more crossed the Baltic Sea to Germany. We sailed back in a light east to south easterly breeze of less than 10 knots. With the code 5 spinnaker and full mainsail, we maintained decent speed.

Compared with other 30 foot cruising boats that I have seen, the Pogo 30 is surprisingly spacious. The boat is wide, with little rocker, which means not only more room below decks, but also no need to add a floor, which adds a few inches of headroom. There are an aft and forward cabins, which provide more than enough room for 4 people. Our 6-year old daughter slept comfortably on a settee in the main cabin; however I don’t know how a grownup would fare. On deck, all of the control lines and halyards are led into the cockpit which makes it easy to change sail configurations, especially with inexperienced crew. An aft cockpit locker provides for easy access to dock lines and fenders.

I was worried that the long mid-summer days would make it difficult for us to sleep, but I shouldn’t have worried. The boat gently rocked me to some of the best sleep that I have had in a long time and no 4 am dawn was going to wake me – or, happily our daughter – up.

 

 

The Boat

I had a nice chat with my old skipper Craig about the Pogo 30. Craig’s experience on the European Mini circuit has certainly opened his eyes to boats seldom seen in the Northwest. Knowing Craig, it’s a rare cruising boat that can get his blood pumping, but the Pogo is clearly one. 

“Why don’t they make boats like these in the U.S.?” Horsfield wondered. “It feels like it has the same amount of space as a J/109.” So, the wide angle lenses used in the promotional interior apparently don’t lie, and certainly the cockpit is huge.

“I was surprised at how comfortable it was,” Horsfield added. He and Carolyn took the forward berth, leaving Jen and Mark to take the more comfortable aft cabin. Curtains, not doors, are used to separate the cabins, but that was enough for this hardy bunch. Anna slept on the settee, “but kept falling off.” Happens to the best of us.

While the Baltic is not the warmest place to sail, the dodger and what I’d call “coaming cloths” keep things warm enough for the crew. Craig explained the designers kept the winches on the cabin top, and in fact just about everything can be done from the forward end of the cockpit. And looking at that cockpit, there’s room for everyone, and their friends. The open transom makes getting in and out easy when tied stern-to.

The Fast Downwind Pogo is equipped with the NKE autopilot system, with which Horsfield was familiar from the Minis. These systems are outstanding. It enabled Craig to do everything on the boat, which was necessary as he was the only experienced sailor.

This Pogo had the lifting keel, which meant draft was either 8.2 or 3.4 feet. The keel pivots but remains external to the boat. A hydraulic ram (“the size of my two arms together”) does the heavy lifting with the engine on. There’s a manual backup as well, but that would be a very slow alternative. The boat can sail with the keel in the up position, but obviously stability and efficiency take a hard hit. The double rudders give the boat excellent control, and are really necessary with that much beam at the transom.

Craig fought the temptation to “send it” with the Pogo. With it’s powerful shape, squaretop main and asymmetrical chute, the Pogo can, without a doubt, lay down some impressive miles when reaching. However, Craig reports a top speed of 15 knts running at 150 true in 25-28 knots with a reef in the main and a jib. He also reports she reached comfortably at 10 knots in 25 knots of breeze. “In light air we had fun with the kite moving well in winds above 6- 7 knts,” he reported. 

 

A Harrowing Mac with a 52.3-knot Gust and 12-seconds between 1st and 2nd

A Harrowing Mac with a 52.3-knot Gust and 12-seconds between 1st and 2nd
Paula Bersie, crouching by the brag flag.

 

Why run a first person story from a race that was sailed a month ago in a place far, far away? Especially one we’ve covered with Brian Huse’s account of same? Well, this first person is by Paula Bersie, a shipmate of mine and a go-to at Fisheries Supply. Paula moved here from the Midwest, and this was a homecoming of sorts for her. And it’s in one of the great one-design classes, the T-10 (Tartan 10). Every year the T-10s race the 333 miles (statute) as a kind of clump, often finishing overlapped after 60 or more hours of racing. Join Paula for a three day race that includes teeth-rattling conditions, a real and necessary watch system and a close finish. As Paula says, it’s the full regale, but for those of us who’ve raced Macs or are thinking about some distance racing, it’s a wonderful tale. it’s a Here we go: 

 

A Harrowing Mac

This… is NOT a summary of my race. It is a full regale!

The Chicago Yacht Club 2017 Race to Mackinac was certainly a memorable one. Of the 302 boats entered in the race, 99 retired due to breakdowns, injuries, or sickness. 8 out of the original 17 T-10’s on the starting line retired. That is nearly 50% of the fleet. It was a brutal marathon slog all the way to the finish line. “Why do we love sailboat racing again?” was a frequent quote heard on the rail. But in the end, it was totally worth it, and I already know I’ll do it again.

After reviewing the latest forecasts, we finalized our game plan. Head north via the east. It’s not typical to go up the east side of the lake because the weather moves west to east, and usually you want to get to the wind first. In fact, I heard very experienced people say they’ve never done it before. But given the likely weather patterns, it would put us at an advantage once we reached the Manitous.

Our start wasn’t great, but it wasn’t particularly bad either. We were trying for the boat end of the starting line to give us clear air and keep us to the east. That was pretty much everyone else’s plan too. We were closer to the boat than the pin, but we were moving too fast and needed to slow down to not be over the starting line early. We ducked around one or two boats to leeward and ended up in the second row. It was not the start we had wanted, but the Mac is a long race and 333 miles is a great equalizer for 2nd-row starts.

We spent the next 10+ hours trying to shake one of our fellow T-10’s who decided to cover us like we were match racing. It was hard to understand why they were using this tactic in the Mac. The Mac is a marathon and they were slowing both us and themselves down. Every time we went up, they went up. Every time we went down, they went down. We broke away a bit and headed more east, they followed and proceeded to match another boat for a while. Apparently, that boat yelled at them and they made their way back towards us. We managed to create just enough separation to concentrate on working our way up the lake instead of wasting energy on them, but it was an additional unexpected factor that we needed to take into account in our tactics.

The forecast called for a big wind shift to the north right around midnight. After sunset, we discussed the plan to douse the spinnaker so that we would all be ready when the time came. That way, when I went below to get some rest, I knew what to expect if the shift came early and I was called up suddenly.

Of course… I now know that the alarm on my watch doesn’t work, because it didn’t wake me up at 10:45 pm for my 11 pm shift as planned. I don’t want to be “that” person that is late for my shift. Typically someone else is waiting for you to come on deck so they can go below. They are usually tired, cold and in need of a break. Fortunately, since we were racing with 7, I was a floater and an extra hand, so no one was waiting for me.

When I got on deck at 11:15 pm, there was a small-med sized storm cell with lots of lightning over Milwaukee. Gretchen sounded concerned and asked what I thought. It was hard to tell at one glance. If it were moving west to east, we would likely be north of it by the time it reached us. We were headed North Northeast at about 7-8 knots in a southerly breeze. We decided to watch its progress. It didn’t seem to be moving very fast, but the winds gradually picked up.

Not too long after I came up, all hands were on deck. We were piled into the cockpit on a fun downwind scream. However, we knew our douse was imminent. The core of the cell was going to be just south of us, but we couldn’t escape the edge of it. All of a sudden, a big 40-knot puff hit us. With perfect timing, we dropped the spinnaker and hoisted the jib. We were screaming downwind at 10 knots under the jib alone when I announced that the true wind speed had pegged a 52.3-knot gust, which then backed down to 36 knots. John asked me if I ever thought I would say those words and I laughed that no… I didn’t ever think I would ever say those words.

Just a few moments later, around 12:15 am, I heard the DSC alarm and the radio chatter started. I heard only a few words in the high wind, “Dark Horse” and “distress”. Then I heard “Sociable” and “distress, under control”. I have a friend who was sailing on Sociable and started to get concerned. Sara went downstairs to hear the VHF better. We were still listening but hadn’t gotten much more information when another call came through. “Mayday Mayday Mayday, this is the Meridian X, we have a man-overboard“. I also heard “trimaran capsized, four sailors are all accounted for and sitting on the bottom of the boat.“Sara wrote down the GPS coordinates and I pulled up our chart to see how far away the various situations were. It turns out that they were too far away for us to help in any kind of useful time frame and with many other boats closer, we decided to press on. But we kept listening anyway just in case. We were pretty nervous for the sailor who went overboard and wanted to confirm their location. Finally, just after 12:30 am we heard that the Meridian X had found and rescued their crewmate. I can’t tell you how relieved I was and how lucky he was given the conditions. And as I learned later, my friends on Sociable were fine. They had been providing assistance to the trimaran (High Priority 2), whose small handheld VHF radio did not have much range.

After the storm, the wind started clocking a bit to the west, so we decided to leave the jib up and barber-haul it to trim the sail. It felt like we were making good time when I finished my shift at 3 am. I was seeing some lights off to starboard and wondered if it might be Michigan. When I turned on my phone to check, I magically had service in the middle of the lake! I downloaded the latest weather forecasts and checked the race tracker. We were in 1st place!

It wasn’t my alarm that woke me up for my next shift, it was someone yelling “STARBOARD!!”, getting tossed off the bench when we suddenly tacked, and then the subsequent shout of “NOT COOL, Man!” I hadn’t bothered to take off any of my foulies when I went below for a sleep/break, so I just went straight up to see what was going on. It was a completely different scene from when I went below. We were close hauled and healed over on a knife’s edge pounding through 6-10 foot waves coming from multiple directions. The wind was blowing pretty hard, averaging about 30 knots. There was another boat that had also tacked and was now on starboard and headed in the opposite direction. It was just a close enough encounter to be uncomfortably close in such rough conditions.

The next 18 hours were particularly grueling and plodding. We had reefed the main. Gretchen was very seasick and spent almost all of it in a bunk. I called waves and 30-40 knot puffs for so long, I started to lose my voice. I trimmed the main; I traveled down; I trimmed the main; I traveled down. I don’t mind big waves actually, sometimes I pretend that they are roller coasters and did my own little arm wave. But imagine being on that roller coaster for 18 hours straight. It was rough.

We generally stuck pretty close to the eastern shore. The land juts out a bit south of Pentwater, which provided some relief from the worst of the waves. In mid-afternoon, we started to notice a few boats without reefs in their mains. Gretchen was still down for the count, and our combined crew weight on the rail was pretty low. Gretchen, Sara and I are pretty small women. I outweigh the two of them by a lot at 135 lbs. Mark and John are not big guys. Peter is tall, so likely has some weight for leverage on the rail, and Tom has some muscle but is also not huge. Tom was driving for much of the time, and he was still having trouble in the puffs. But the wind had diminished a bit, likely averaging 20-25 knots with puffs maybe up to 30. We started to notice another T-10 was moving up on us. It was Monitor, and they did not have a reef in their main. We called all hands up on deck around 5:00 pm. Even Gretchen, who immediately got sick again was sitting on the rail. In hindsight, we probably should have shaken our reef out sooner, but Monitor ended up passing us at about 5:30 pm.

By sunset that evening, we were still beating upwind trying to keep Monitor in our sights. The sky had finally cleared, and it seemed like the perfect conditions to see the elusive green flash that people say happens just as the sun sets. When I blinked I saw little sunspots behind my eyelids as I intently watched the horizon. I was hoping to finally see it for the first time ever. But alas… that unicorn is still out there for me.

After the sunset, I went below to try to get a little rest. The day had been pretty rough on the boat, and one of the benches ripped out of its hinges leaving only 3 benches for crew members to lie on. They were all full. Not having a blanket, or a place to lie down, I propped myself between the two benches and fell asleep sitting up. At some point, one of my crewmates got up for his shift and I managed to get an hour sleep in the bunk. He even put a blanket on top of me. It was glorious.

When I went up for my next shift it was very dark, and there was a bit of confusion. There was a high beam spotlight making sweeps across the channel and a bunch of chatter on the VHF between the Manitowoc Ferry and a sailboat. We had also just tacked. It was to avoid the ferry. The reasons you have crew shifts in a race is because fresh rested eyes can make more sense of the seemingly random patterns. What my crewmates didn’t realize is that the ferry wasn’t talking to us; it was a different sailboat a few miles away. I saw the ferry and watched. We were definitely not in its path. There were no red/green navigation lights. It was headed away from us.

Another source of confusion is where the South Manitou buoy was. It marks the northern side of the channel heading inside the Manitou islands. You can go outside and around the islands, but it adds a lot of miles to your race. You either have to know that the wind will be significantly better outside the islands to go there or be taking a flyer to catch up. Therefore figuring out where the channel starts is important. I’m not sure why this is a difficult buoy to find, but every year it seems to be a struggle. After consulting the charts and methodically checking each light with our binoculars, we found the buoy and went inside the Manitous.

Once the drama of the ferry and finding the buoy calmed down, I had time to look up. Star gazing on the night shift is one of my favorite parts of the race. The Milky Way did not disappoint. Being so far from the light pollution of a city allows the cloudy mix of stars to shine brightly. The northern lights glowed. They weren’t the shimmering dancing ribbons that you see in pictures, it was more of a warm blush in the sky, but pretty nonetheless. There were shooting stars that lasted 10 seconds or more. I made a wish on every one.

As you navigate at night, you are constantly monitoring the lights on the water around you for boats, navigational aids, etc… When I looked to the east, I saw the strangest sight. It was a huge orange shark fin. I was like “What the hell is that?!” In my sleep deprived state, it took me just a moment too long to realize I wasn’t hallucinating, and that it was the moon rising. It was spectacular. A perfect crescent shape, it looked exactly like the drawings of the man in the moon except for the fact that it was blood orange. He was peacefully looking over us and the rest of the night was uneventful.

Once again, I was woken up at about 6:30 am by a tack, but this time it was much much slower and the boat was much much flatter. I emerged from the cabin into the morning sunlight still wearing my full foulies and everyone immediately started making fun of me, but I was still cold. There was no wind. We were moving maybe 0.8 knots (on the GPS, the speed through the water read 0.0 knots of speed) and the sun was already shining brightly. I warmed up quickly and proceeded to peel the layers off and lay them in the sun to dry. The most important of which was my shoes and socks. My feet were soaking wet and had been for about 48 hours at this point.

I find that the 2 am to 6 am shift is one of the hardest, and the crew who were awake were tired. It was very light wind conditions at that point. Sailing in those conditions requires a tremendous amount of patience that is hard to muster when energy is waning so far into the race, especially after the day before when we were beating upwind for over 18 hours. We hadn’t moved very far since I went down to sleep around 3 am. We were still just to the east of the north side of North Manitou Island. I have had the benefit of sailing with some fantastic sailors in my life. One thing I’ve learned from them is that if you are not moving, at LEAST point the boat towards the finish line until you can find some wind. We were pointing at the north end of North Manitou Island. After I pointed that out, Mark said, “Why don’t you take over driving for a while.”

I slowly turned us to at least point towards the finish line, stopped moving the tiller so much and immediately started looking for signs of where the breeze was coming from. I looked for tree fuzzies in the wind. I looked on the water to check for the tiniest of ripples. I tried to see if the insects were generally coming from one direction in particular. I paid attention to the small hairs on my face. We started moving incrementally better, but still very very slowly.

Our plan had been to stay close to the Manitous because the wind was predicted to be better on that side of the channel, but we were pointed away from North Manitou Island. I didn’t want to turn back. We were getting the faintest of ripples of wind and I just wanted to keep the boat moving. The wind looked better ahead of us and looked worse behind. Peter saw one tiny little cloud over Leland on the mainland and expressed a hope that it was a sign of an early sea breeze forming over on the mainland. It was a bit prophetic. Soon, we were getting small fingers of light wind and those little clouds started to multiply. Someone observed that those little clouds are like magic. You never see them form but you blink, and another one just appears out of thin air! By the time I gave up the tiller, we were moving around 3.5 knots towards Gray’s Reef and were ahead of the rest of the fleet by 6 miles.

It became an almost idyllic day for sailing. We had all of our gear spread out all over the deck to dry. It looked like a garage sale. It was sunny and warm without being hot. There was enough wind to keep the flies at bay and was blowing enough to keep us moving in the right direction. Mark and John, who weathered most of the steering and tactics, both got several hours of uninterrupted sleep. It was enough to brighten everyone’s spirits for the final push to the finish line.

In the late afternoon, as time inched towards sunset, the wind started dying again. We had our binoculars out and Yellowbrick tracking, trying to figure out if there was more wind on the other side and if our competition was gaining on us. I had a borderline manic moment right as the wind was dying, where I gave a “pep talk” to the crew about light wind racing and this being the point where we could lose the race. Quite rightly, John brought it all back down to earth. Tom surprised us with the best looking sandwich I’ve ever seen on the Mac. It was a full baguette covered with layers of lettuce, sliced tomatoes, salami, roast beef, ham and horseradish cheese covered in oil and vinegar. We all felt much better for eating it. I must have been hungry.

Our biggest tactical decision throughout the afternoon and evening was when to tack and consolidate back to the rest of the fleet. It was a tough call. We ended up tacking four times. Our wind was light and shifty. Had we stuck to just 2 tacks, we may have arrived at the better and more consistent wind before our competitors. But in the moment, you just can’t know for sure and hindsight is 20/20.

Of the three nights, the sunset on Monday was by far the most spectacular. You need clouds on the horizon to have a proper sunset. They are something for the sun’s rays to bounce off of. Sunset on Sunday didn’t have any clouds at all. The swirls of high cirrus clouds that reached towards us with the lower and puffier nimbus clouds marching in a row just underneath them provided multiple layers from which the light could reflect and bounce.

Just after sunset, Mark asked me to take the helm again. It was hard. The transition between daytime, dusk and then nighttime is a very tricky one. In general, I need a reference point. Something I can use to keep my heading.

As the sun set, I kept losing my reference point and I’ve learned that it takes me a while to transition to solely using the compass to steer. I am not naturally good at steering by the compass, and soon Mark (quite rightly) took the reigns back.

In the middle of the channel, there is a small island/shoal called Ile Aux Galets. On it is a lighthouse called Skilagallee to warn vessels to avoid the area. The charts indicate that there is a green navigation can with a 9-second flashing light on the northwest side and a red navigation buoy with a 2-second flashing light on the northeast side. With all of the navigation buoys around, it’s pretty tough to tell what’s what. At least the lighthouse was easily recognizable. I identified the red buoy marking the shoal to the northeast, but couldn’t find the green 9-second flashing can to the northwest of the shoal. We had to make a decision as to whether we would go to starboard or port of Skilagallee soon. The wind essentially made it for us. It had gone south and was inching toward the southeast. This put us at a disadvantage to our competitors. They were coming in on a starboard tack on a fast reach. We were coming in pretty low and not moving as fast. There was a buoy in the place of the green 9-second flasher, but it was a red flasher which is why we didn’t recognize it. We skirted just inside of it after I checked the charts and our course and determined it was definitely deep enough for us to not hit bottom.

We hardly had to change course at all to make it straight down Gray’s Reef from that point, but the damage from the inopportune wind shift was already done. Both Erica and Monitor consolidated in front of us just before the Grays Reef Light.

We were still under spinnaker, and our next decision was whether or not we would be able to hold the sail after leaving New Shoal Lighted Bell Buoy 3 to starboard.  I scanned the fleet ahead of us as they rounded the mark. Not one of them was carrying a spin. We decided that we wouldn’t be able to either.

As I was scanning for spinnakers, I saw a freighter heading down the straights towards the channel. We were about ¾ of a mile past the reef by the time it made the turn. I was very glad that we were past the channel when it went through, it can be harried in those close quarters at night under sail when going through with a freighter. Both Monitor and Erica would have definitely gotten away from us if we were also battling with the freighter.

When you start down the straits you expect to see the Mackinac Bridge, but sometimes weather can cloud it from view. At night in clear skies, however, you can see the lights from pretty far away. Seeing that bridge is very emotional. It marks the final leg of a very long race and you get the impression that you are nearly done. I almost always get a bit teary-eyed with relief when I finally see it. But that bridge is still 20 miles away and a lot can happen in those 20 miles, so it is important to not lose focus because you are ready to be done.

On the drag race down the Straits of Mackinac, we started to creep up on Erica. Monitor was really hard to see as their masthead stern lights were very very dim. It was hard to tell if we were making progress on them as well or not. They had both gone higher, presumably to be able to set the spinnaker and come into the bridge on a reach. We stayed lower and were, therefore, sailing faster. Our rationale was that you never win a race by following the leader. We had been using a light on our jib to see the telltales, which makes it easier to trim the sail, but also harder to be inconspicuous in the dark. We finally got to the point where we thought we could carry the spin and turned off our lights. We were hoping that we could be sneaky and set our spin before Erica, but I heard from them after the race that they were watching our light anticipating that moment. In the end, we were definitely not sneaky. We were pretty loud, and when we got settled, Erica had also set their spin and were pulling away a bit again on a better angle.

We passed under the Mackinac Bridge just before 4 am a little less than a half mile behind Monitor and Erica, who were nearly on top of each other. The sky was just starting to lighten up, and we could see them more clearly.

Passing under the bridge is always exciting. If you sail the course, you know you won’t hit the bridge. But it looks like you are going to hit the bridge and a favorite Mackinac newbie joke is to pretend that it is possible to take out your mast to freak them out. There are countless gorgeous pictures out there from sailors taken under the bridge.

The wind typically changes after the bridge. We were able to sail higher and we were catching up to Monitor and Erica who were battling each other and sailing lower. It turned out that there was just a bit more wind coming in from Lake Huron. As Erica tried to get around Monitor we were sneaking up on them fast. It was a super close finish, but we managed to pick off Erica and finish in 2nd place only 12 seconds behind Monitor. If we’d had another 100 ft, we could have pulled off the upset. In the end, Erica was only 13 seconds behind us. It’s amazing that we sailed 333 miles and it came down to only a few feet!

It was an exciting and brutal race, but I felt great about how we sailed and how we finished! It was my first time on the podium on the Mac race. Obviously, there is a lot of skill that goes into a race like this, but there is also a significant amount of luck. I have friends who race on Erica and they did an awesome job. I was sad that they had to take 3rd for us to take 2nd. It was a bit of luck that the wind filled in exactly where we needed it to in order to get in front of them. They worked hard and deserved their place on the podium.

I had an awesome time and even though it was a really difficult race, I would do it again in a heartbeat.

I want to thank the entire crew of Retention, but especially Mark for having me. You are all awesome people and great sailors. I wouldn’t hesitate to race with every single one of you again. Thank you so much, Mark Croll, Gretchen Croll, John Croll, Sara Otto, Tom Carney, and Peter Dubois!!

If you want to read more of Paula’s adventures, visit her blog.

Hanne Weaver on Winning the US Singlehanded Championship

Hanne Weaver on Winning the US Singlehanded Championship
Hanne Weaver winning the US Singlehanded Championship on Lake Tahoe. Photos by Rebecca Hinden.

While Hanne Weaver’s US Singlehanded Championship win might be an eye-opener to some, it comes as no surprise to those of us in the Seattle Laser Fleet. Like so many exceptional sailors before her, she started sailing Lasers at a young age when simply holding the boat down was a challenge. Gradually, persistently, she worked at the skill independently and with coaching until she climbed to the top of the junior rankings. Now she’s headed to the Netherlands as part of the US Sailing team where she’ll get to do battle with some of the world’s best women dinghy sailors at the Laser Radial Women’s Worlds .

I got to steal a few minutes of Weaver’s time to chat about the US Singlehanded Championship, sailed in conjunction with the US Laser Nationals.

Weaver got to the Lake Tahoe Regatta site a couple days early to get used to the venue and attend a clinic, and immediately saw Tahoe’s unique challenges. “The wind would come in from the west, then spread out across the lake,” she explained. “You have to keep your head out of the boat.” She also learned about the shelf along the edge of the lake where the depth drops steeply. The race committee would set the marks in the shallow areas, so time learning about playing those shores was very helpful. Other than that, the usual regatta routines apply, including teaming up with a competitor to do split tacks before the start.

There was wind the first two days of the regatta, then a no wind/no sailing day. It looked there might be no racing on the fourth and final day of racing, but the wind filled just in time for the PRO to get in a sixth and final race. She sailed into a hole that final race, but won the regatta comfortably on the strength of her first five races.

While she won the US Women’s Singlehanded Championship, her performance also put her second overall the Radial fleet, behind Chase Carraway.

I’m used to seeing “Camp Hanne” at Cascade Locks on the Gorge, with her family setting up a tremendous campsite to provide amazing regatta support. At Tahoe, she was on her own with no individual coaches or parents hanging around. She did, however, have a great place to stay. “I met someone while training in Belize last winter, and he had relatives with a place right on the Lake.” She even had her little guest house to call home for the regatta.

There are many keys to Hanne’s success. Certainly, talent is one of those. From the very beginning that was obvious. And, of course, sailing Lasers at that level requires extreme tenacity and the ability to shrug off bad regattas.

No sailors get to this level without support and coaching. In addition to her parents, Weaver is member of both the Seattle Yacht Club and Royal Vancouver Yacht Club. While she’s not currently a part of either sailing team (aah, right, she’s on the US Sailing Team….) she certainly benefited from both programs. 

A big part of Laser sailing is the physical aspect, and Weaver has paid a lot of attention to that over the years. These days, she’s following a program designed specially for her by none other than Anna Tunnicliffe, the Olympic Gold Medalist. Weaver follows the program and then reports on how it’s going online where Tunnicliffe reviews and makes adjustments to the plan. Renowned for her fitness, and a top CrossFit competitor, Tunnicliffe is a great resource.

While less of Weaver’s sailing is in the Pacific Northwest these days, she’s still out there on Puget Sound. In the coming days she’ll head from her job at West Marine at Shilshole Bay Marina in Seattle directly to the docks where she’ll log in some time in the waters where she got her start years ago. “Seattle is great for sailing. The cold water makes us tough.” That said, she’s now at a point where she has to go to where the competition is. And this month, it’s the Netherlands.

Weaver is yet another young Pacific Northwest sailor setting an amazing tone for other Northwest sailors, young and old, men and women, to follow. She’s taking on a big challenge, sticking with it, and accepting the available help. Through it all, she remains a classy competitor and fun to talk to.

“Got That Out of the Way.” Carl Buchan and the Transpac

“Got That Out of the Way.” Carl Buchan and the Transpac
Merlin closing in on the finish with Bill Lee at the helm. Sharon Green photo.

There were plenty of big stories in this years Transpac Race. Comanche‘s 5-day, 1 hour record, Mighty Merloe‘s stunning victory and the return of Merlin are probably the top three.

The Merlin story includes a part that’s very near and dear to us in the Pacific Northwest. It was Carl Buchan’s first big offshore race of the kind. Pacific Northwesterners are eager to claim Carl as one of our own, and with good reason. He’s won an Olympic Gold Medal (with Jonathan McKee in the Flying Dutchman) an America’s Cup – sort of – (with Dennis Conner in 1988) 505 North Americans (with Carol Buchan) Tasar Worlds (with Carol) and last but not least the Star Worlds (with Hugo Schreiner).

On Madrona, a 40-footer to his own design, Buchan is a perpetual force on the PNW race courses including events as diverse as Round the County and the Race to Alaska.

Most importantly, through all of it, he has retained both his humility and energy for the sport. Both came in handy on Merlin this year. As one might expect, Merlin‘s crew was rife with experience led by The Wizard himself, Bill Lee. Buchan may ooze boatspeed and racing smarts, but he was the offshore newbie aboard Merlin. Staying in character, he did his job and learned a lot.

Lessons Learned

Transpac sunset – not necessarily time to sleep. Buchan photo.

Sleep The first learning curve is one of the most important and challenging. “I was starting to get into a rhythm the day before we finished. I was a basket case before that sleep-wise,” Buchan explained. I’m not sure how he did it, but accepting that you have a problem is always the first step.

Knowing the Boat “One of the things that became clear was the importance of knowing the boat, in particular the polars and (sail combination) crossovers. You usually don’t have other boats around to get that performance feedback. It was great to have Pyewacket out there. They were always pushing us. We were expecting to fall behind early, but our goal was was to be within about 20 miles when the high speed running conditions started to favor us.” In the end, Merlin beat Pyewacket into Hawaii by a couple of hours and only trailed the much higher rated Runaway on elapsed time. On corrected time, the Alan Andrews-designed Pyewacket won, followed by the Santa Cruz 70 Catapult and the Merlin.

Merlin While it may have been tempting to think of Merlin’s 2017 Transpac as a trip down memory lane for a 40 year old boat, it was obviously a lot more that that. Over the years she’s been modified and upgraded many times, and since buying the boat a year or so ago Bill Lee has put in a number of other changes. Here’s a Scuttlebutt post with more on the program. “Once in a while Bill would say something like ‘at this point in the race back then’ but he’s really forward thinking,” explains Buchan. “It’s not clear what the next phase will be for the boat, perhaps chartering or selling.”

Offshore Tactics Buchan is used to finding the fastest way upwind, downwind or to a point somewhere along the course that will take advantage of current or expected windshift. In the Transpac, the usual course of things is to be lifted on starboard gybe as you make your way to Hawaii. The big decision is when to gybe to port. “Things happen more slowly out there on an ocean race. You set a waypoint into your plans and maximize your speed to that point. But conditions are always changing, so you’re constantly updating that information and updating the game plan. You have to be set up to take in that information.”

Madrona lighting it up in Round the County. Sean Trew photo.

A Transpac for Madrona? Watching Madrona take shape locally in carbon, with many helping hands, was fascinating for many of us. At the time we heard Transpac mentioned. “Even when I built the boat it was on my mind,” Buchan says. Madrona‘s moderate beam and relatively full ends not only look like it would go fast downwind, it does. A couple of memorable Round the County runs revealed Madrona as not just a really fast 40-footer, a blisteringly fast 40-footer in the right conditions. “In many ways, the Transpac would be right up Madrona‘s alley,” Buchan said. Hmmm.

 

In the end, Buchan’s understated summary was “I got that out of the way.” Tellingly, he also said “I certainly enjoyed the longer distance race. I came away seeing it’s a very interesting challenge, especially for the navigator.” My guess is he did a lot more than check something off a list – I’m pretty sure he absorbed a tremendous amount of Transpac know-how, and we’ll see it again, processed and upgraded.

 

 

Weaver Wins US Women’s Championship!

Weaver Wins US Women’s Championship!

Let’s see, Abbie Carlson wins the Leiter Cup (just like Hanne Weaver did a couple years ago) and now Weaver wins the US Singlehanded Women’s Championship! Go PNW! This just came out. I’ll try to get Hanne to give us the lowdown and find some really good photos. In the meantime let us all congratulate our amazing young women sailors!

Please share this, not just with your sailing friends, but your non-sailing friends. The Pacific Northwest remains a hotbed of outstanding dinghy sailors, both men and women. Any young people who are into racing can gain some motivation from these recent successes, and any young person thinking about an exciting and challenging life-long sport should take note! –KMH

LAKE TAHOE, Calif. (July 24, 2017) – Following four days of exciting racing in the sparkling waters of Lake Tahoe, Marek Zaleski (Norwalk, Conn.) became the 2017 U.S. Singlehanded Men’s Champion and Hanne Weaver (Seattle, Wash.) became the 2017 U.S. Singlehanded Women’s Champion on Sunday. Held in conjunction with the Laser Class U.S. National Championships and hosted by the Tahoe Yacht Club, the fleets were comprised of experienced and proven singlehanded sailors and an influx of new talented young men and women.

Zaleski’s performance was good enough to claim the overall title out of 43 boats in the Full Rig fleet for the Laser Class U.S. National Championship. Although Jake Vickers was a game competitor all week, Zaleski won five of the seven races and was the clear-cut top performer.

U.S. Singlehanded Men’s Championship: Final Results – Top 5

1. Marek Zaleski, Noroton Yacht Club, 1-5-1-1-1-1-[7]- ; 10

2. Jake Vickers, Severn Sailing Association, 3-[6]-4-2-3-3-1- ; 16

3. Caleb Robinson, Sail Maine, 2-[22]-5-13-5-7-5- ; 37

4. Cameron Feves, Cabrillo Beach Yacht Club, 6-9-8-9-[16]-4-13- ; 49

5. Peter Phelan, Santa Cruz Yacht Club, 7-11-7-6-7-14-[44/DSQ]- ; 52

Complete Standings

“The altitude and the water quality are two things that are different about this venue,” explained Zaleski. “I’m glad I got here early, because I was struggling when working out on my bike and the water is so clear, the Lasers float a little lower in the water, not a huge difference, but it’s noticeable.”

“I am campaigning for the 2020 Olympics non-stop,” said Zaleski. “I have over 200 days on the water since I graduated last year and a lot of time in the gym working on my fitness. So, it’s nice to see good results and that my work  is paying off.”

Weaver won the U.S. Singlehanded Women’s Championship by a 16 point margin over Charlotte Rose. She placed second overall to Chase Carraway out of 55 boats in the Laser Radial fleet.

U.S. Singlehanded Women’s Championship: Final Results – Top 5

1. Hanne Weaver, RVYC, SYC, 3-12-4-2-10-[18]- ; 31

2. Charlotte Rose, Houston Yacht Club / GCYSA, [23]-14-2-4-14-13- ; 47T

3. Kelly Cole, OCBC, 7-13-5-14-[56/OCS]-8- ; 47T

4. Lillian Myers, GCYSP, [18]-11-17-6-6-9- ; 49

5. Annika Fedde, Ventura Yacht Club, 13-26-16-27-9-[39]- ; 91

Complete Standings

“The wind and how it comes off the mountains and spreads out over the lake is the most challenging part of this sailing venue,” explained Weaver. “You really have to keep your head out of the boat.”

The race committee completed three races for the Lasers on Thursday and Friday and three races for the Laser Radials on Thursday and two on Friday. The conditions were similar both days with winds in the 6-10 knot range, primarily from 225° with violent shifts making it difficult to maintain “squareness’ on the inside-outside trapezoid course.

 

Lack of any breeze on Saturday forced the race committee to abandon all racing. Sunday looked like a repeat of Saturday, with a slightly better, yet inconsistent, forecast model. A 10 knot westerly burst through the racing area later in the afternoon. The shifts became radical and inconsistent resulting in a postponement and general recall before getting off the Lasers just seven minutes before the warning signal deadline. The wind was brisk resulting in a shorter than expected race duration for both fleets. They completed an important sixth race for the Radials (allowing for their discard) and a seventh race for the Lasers.

Sailors eligible for the U.S. Singlehanded Sailing Championships in the men’s Laser Full Rig and women’s Laser Radial Fleets must be U.S. citizens and at least turn 17 in the calendar year of 2017. These eligible sailors raced in their respective fleets as part of the Laser Nationals competition.

Prizes were awarded to competitors meeting the eligibility rules for the U.S. Singlehanded Championship:

  • George D. O’Day Trophy to the overall highest placing eligible male in the Laser Full Rig for the U.S. Singlehanded Men’s Championship.
  • Helen Willis Hanley Trophy to the overall highest placing eligible female in the Laser Radial for the U.S. Singlehanded Women’s Championship.
  • US Sailing medals were awarded to the top three positions in each fleet.
  • Peter J. Barrett Sportsmanship Trophy will be awarded and posted by Monday morning.

For complete results and standings and more information about the 2017 U.S. Singlehanded Sailing Championships, please visit the event website.

The 2017 U.S. Singlehanded Championships is sponsored by Gill North America and Hobie Polarized. This US Sailing National Championship is participating in the Sailors for the Sea’s Clean Regattas program.

Pacific Northwest Sailors Take on a Tough Chicago-Mac at 23 knots in Blue

Pacific Northwest Sailors Take on a Tough Chicago-Mac at 23 knots in Blue

This year’s 333-mile (289 nm) Chicago Mackinac Island Race sailed last weekend was, once again, a tour of extreme conditions. Two life-saving rescues had to be performed in the fleet. From very nearly deadly to drifting, the crews from all those boats competing, whether they finished or not, have tales to tell. The Paul Bieker-designed 41-footer Blue was more than a Northwest design; a good portion of its crew was from the Northwest including Brian Huse, Kathryn Meyer and Kris Bundy. Brian graciously offered up a report between Macs (they’re doing the Port Huron Mac as well), and at the end of this post I’ll include some links to hair-raising rescues from the race. Here’s Brian:

The 17-boat Tartan 10 class was one of six one-design classes in the Mac. Photo courtesy of Miste Photography.

We had a great sail. The forecast was for a building SW breeze ahead of a cold front which would intersect with around midnight Saturday. We were in section 1, the third to last start, at 1:40 on Saturday. We had a great start and quickly set the fractional code-0 and were on our way. An hour or so later we changed to the A3 and then a few hours later we settled in to the A2. We sailed out of Chicago toward Michigan until the breeze settled into what we thought was the max right then gybed onto port and headed north. The goal was to get as far north as possible ahead of the pending cold front, which was forecasted to be strong cold and northerly.

I was off watch with another hour before my watch started when my watch was asked to come on deck to peel to the A4. It was 11:00 Saturday night. It was dark with no moon yet and was blowing 18-20. We were expecting a increase in the southwest breeze ahead of the cold front so we wanted to be ready with the A4 for some nice 20 knot+ true wind speed sailing. We successfully got the A4 up and the A2 down. It was now blowing 25 and our bow team was still tidying up from the change with all others in the back as we were now planing at 18 or so. In less than two minutes the breeze built to the high 30’s and we had 1-2’ of water over the deck. Finally all the crew were able to move to the transom and we ripped! Twenty-three to 25 knots of boat speed. The breeze built to over 40 knots when we noticed wind speed was 44 knots. It was the 44-knot puff which did the damage. While we were working out how to get the kite down the decision was made for us. The kite halyard pulls through the clutch. The spinnaker in the water and the boat broaches a little as the kite fills with water…

No significant damage but we have to cut the halyard as all though it pulled through its still attached to the sail and the boat somewhere. We damaged the kite a little, did some more significant damage to the new staysail as it did some serious flogging half furled. It took about 20 minutes to get sorted out. Unfortunately due to the way we peeled both topmost halyards were lost, leaving us with only fractional halyards. By the time dust settled and we were ready to set the fractional code 0 the breeze had swung to about 30 degrees and we were into a headsail. We would now be beating to Mackinac Island. We started with the #3. A couple hours later we reefed and a couple hours after that we changed to the #4. We sailed with a reef and a #4 all day Sunday. Our masthead electronics were a casualty of the incident so we don’t know what the breeze was but I would say more than 25 and less then 30 and super choppy and sloppy. The waves 4-6’ and close together. The boat was awesome with no issues at all in that stuff. The crew handled well too. Everyone worked hard and even thou it was not a glamour day of sailing, the mood was upbeat and keen. The wind started to die down at the south end of Manitou Passage closer to Sleeping Bear. We started to power up. Shook out the reef and went back to the 3. We had good breeze all the way to Grays reef. The wind freshened a bit but nothing extreme.

We ended up beating in moderate northerly’s to Grays Reef. At the time we got north of the reef it was ~3:00 am Monday. It took 10 hours to sail the ~20 miles to Mackinac in light to no breeze…it was mostly a beat but we ultimately finished with an A1.5 at 1:00ish in the afternoon on Monday.
Michael Schoendorf is the owner of “Blue”. He is a great sailor and puts together a great team. The crew was a mix from the PNW, Midwest and one from the east coast. All great sailors and tough! Mike does an excellent job of preparing the boat and keeping the gear and sails current. I feel quite fortunate to be a part of it.
Brian Huse (broker at Raven Marine)
Ed. Note: The trimaran High Priority 2 capsized and the crew had to be rescued by the USCG. There’s a first person account on Sailing Anarchy. In another Sailing Anarchy story, the survival and rescue of a sailor who spent an hour in the water is chronicled. The Chicago Mac throws it all at you in extremes, from the infamous black flies to furious squalls. It’s humbling. On a personal note, I’ve done seven long ago and miss it terribly. 
The Volvo 70 Il Mostro was the first monohull to finish, and one of the many “gold platers” in the fleet.

Abbie Carlson is Yet Another Rising Seattle Sailing Star, Wins Leiter Cup

Abbie Carlson is Yet Another Rising Seattle Sailing Star, Wins Leiter Cup

The Seattle area seems to churn out champion sailors at a impressively steady pace. The latest is Abbie Carlson, who’s been quietly making her way through the ranks of local, regional and now national sailing. Abbie is part of the Seattle Yacht Club team, and the latest in a line of very successful junior women singlehanders including Hanne Weaver and Talia Toland. We did run the US Sailing press release, but took a shot at asking Abbie to come up with a few words – hopefully they’ll inspire more junior women, and sailors of all types and ages, to join the fun. We’ll keep tabs on all the men and women who are “out there” in the big regattas. Results. Here’s Abbie: 

 

Abbie Carlson and the Leiter Cup

I had an amazing time winning Leiter Cup this year at the Houston Yacht Club. After placing third at Leiter Cup last year in Seattle, my goal for this year’s regatta was to be first.

The first two days consisted of a clinic to adjust to Galveston Bay, the racing venue. The other three days were race days. Overall, this regatta had very light wind conditions with the occasional thunderstorm. On the first race day, after being postponed on the water for several hours due to no wind, we were finally able to sail one shifty and light wind race. I had a great start to the regatta winning this race by half a leg. We started a second race that day although it was abandoned due to an oncoming thunderstorm that brought 20+ knot of wind. The next day we weren’t able to get on the water until 5pm due to thunderstorms and the absence of wind. During these long postponements, it was challenging to remain focused. I found that staying patient and hydrated were essential in achieving this.

However, once the wind came up a bit, we were able to sail two more races in very light wind conditions. Due to the lack of the desired number of races, the race committee moved the start time from the daily 11am time to 9:30am for the final day of racing. By the last day, we had sailed a total of six races meaning that we were able to drop our worst score. The race committee considered starting a seventh race, however a thunderstorm started approaching us so they decided to call it off.

The girls that placed in the top five were all really close in points so I had no idea that I had won the regatta until I got to the dock. I was so excited to achieve my goal. I had such a fun time meeting new talented sailors from across the country and reconnecting with old friends. It’s exciting to know that the Leiter Cup has now been won by three sailors in the Northwest form the Seattle Yacht Club in the last six years. Without the help and support of my coach, Cameron Hoard, Brian Ledbetter, West Coast Sailing, and many others including US Sailing, I wouldn’t be where I am today.  I can’t wait to attend Leiter Cup next year in Connecticut.  

Fujin Wins on the Water But Loses the Tweak War

<em>Fujin</em> Wins on the Water But Loses the Tweak War
Fujin, in the background, giving chase to Elvis. Photo courtesy of NYYC and Stuart Streuli.

Here’s Brad Baker’s wrapup to the New York YC Multihull Regatta. It’s clear that Brad has found a new love in multihulls, but we’ll have to find out if he has any new thoughts on blue blazers. It’s also clear it was a fun regatta and Fujin had a great crew. No matter the handicap results, the Bieker design caught everybody’s attention, including the handicappers’. Here’s Brad:

Well, the regatta is in the books. I have some time to reflect on the experience as I wait for our plane here at the Providence airport. Since my last write up, we had two more lighter air races on Friday, a total bust with no racing on Saturday, a BBQ at NY Yacht Club, an awards ceremony, again at NYYC and a bit of a rating controversy to boot.

We had two races Friday. The forecast was for lighter N to NW winds in the 5-10 knot range. The committee elected to take us outside of the bay. The one design Swan 42 class sailed from a different starting line a bit further east while the IRC fleets and the multihull fleet shared a starting line. Other than a brief shot of winds in the 14-knot range, wind speeds generally stayed in the 7-11 knot range. These powered up light weight cats still move at a pretty good clip in these wind speeds, but after sailing at speeds ranging from 12 – 16 knots upwind, doing speed mostly in the 8-knot range Saturday was, well, underwhelming. Also, with the inherent stability of a cat you just don’t get the sensation of power and speed that you might on a monohull going the same speed. Faster is indeed more fun, especially on a high performance catamaran! 

We had a good start for the first race on Friday. In these conditions Fujin uses the code 0 for the upwind work.  Fujin’s boat speed is much closer matched to the Gunboats and the HH 66 in these conditions. The GB (Gunboat) 62 Elvis with her aggressively tall rig and powerful sailplan, really scoots in the 10 knots and under wind speeds.  Fujin, the HH66 Nala, and the GB 62 Elvis banged left while the rest of the fleet split right. With more pressure and a right hand shift the right paid. This was the first time in the regatta that we on Fujin didn’t round the first mark in either first or second place. A GB 60 named Fault Tolerant lead the fleet around the weather mark. That said, tactician Jonathan McKee aboard Fujin did a great job, we never gave up, kept the pedal pushed down and worked our way through the fleet to cross the finish line in second, after rounding the first mark in 5th

For the second race of the day we sailed in similar conditions. Fujin struggled in the lighter breeze, with all the taller rigs surrounding us at the starting line. It seemed to create a vacuum.  This combined with a last minute left hand shift and we nearly couldn’t cross the line, battling to stay above the pin. Elvis started clear and managed to jump out to an early lead.  Even with our struggles, Fujin’s start is best stated as second best. Jonathan sailed us smart and fast as we held off the rest of the fleet to round the first mark in second place behind Elvis. We maintained this position for the race as the rich got richer. Elvis was just too quick to catch in these conditions.  As it turned out this was the last race of the regatta. 

The wind refused to fill in, in a timely manner on Saturday, and the race committee made the call to abandon at about 2:30pm on Saturday. Of course the overcast cleared off 20 minutes later and the seabreeze filled, but that’s the way it always works, right?  The race was on!…. to the dock. We on Fujin had wisely covered the dock side of the course and led the fleet heading back to shore. Our nemesis, Elvis, motored quicker and was on our starboard hip as we entered the bay. It turns out they wanted to share some more of that rum they have on tap.   They tossed a bottle of rum and coke.  Great sports and great competitors!

Any time there are rating systems used there is typically controversy. This regatta was no exception. Initially, Fujin was scored with a 1st and a 2nd place for the final two races sailed. That put us with 1,1,1,2 for the regatta, for a solid win, but……….     the multihull fleet is using a performance/polar based system that actually rates the boats on the average true wind angle and average wind speed for each individual leg. The boats are asked to record their data during the race and send the data log file from the Expedition software to the rating organizers at the end of each day of racing. This is only the second regatta to use this new system. Some of the competitors felt that the polars being used to rate the boats wasn’t representative of the actual speeds achieved on the course, specifically for Fujin.  The decision was made to tweak the numbers. It’s still a bit unclear as to what was tweaked and how the new rating adjustments were achieved, but the end result was the 1,1,1,2 for Fujin turned into a 1,3,4,2. Interesting changes to say the least. With these finishes, Fujin ended up with a second place finish for the regatta. In my humble opinion, this second place result for Fujin was likely appropriate, as Elvis was probably the best sailed boat for the regatta. I am concerned that the tweaks over compensated for the disparities in rating. I know the organizers are working hard to make this very complicated rating system work. I hope that they can get it right, or close to right, to keep the racing fun and to appropriately reward the better sailed boats.

Overall this has been a great experience!  I got to sail with my wife for a week. The kids got to have the house to themselves for a week (hopefully they didn’t have any parties, or at the very least have done an excellent job of cleaning up if they did). Fujin’s owner Greg Slyngstad is a class act and a joy to sail with. The same is true for the rest of the crew, which included Jonathan McKee, Fritz Lanzinger, Erik Bentzen & Mike Leslie. I can’t say enough about the extremely talented boat captain(s) couple, Gina Borza and Andrew McCorquodale.  Gina runs a tight ship, which was very much appreciated and Andrew is a true pro. This was an entirely Pacific NW based crew and we represented our region well. Sailing aboard a high performance catamaran has been a big eye opener and I can’t help but think that sailing, both competition and cruising, is going to be seeing a lot more of these versatile, comfortable and fast two hulled vessels. I’m truly basking in the glow of this experience and eagerly await the next chance to do some more!

Brad Baker is an owner at Swiftsure Yachts, which sells (among it’s many lines) Outremer Catamarans.

Fujin Winning Tight Battle in Newport

<em>Fujin</em> Winning Tight Battle in Newport

Here’s a quick update from Fujin in the NYYC Multihull Regatta. It was an interesting day yesterday to say the least. We were again postponed for two hours at the dock. Again, the race committee did a good job finding a place to race where there was wind as we went north from Newport further into the bay. A northerly filled in shortly after we arrived at the racing area and quickly built to the higher teens by the time the race started.

Views from onboard.

We had a shorter windward-leeward type course this time around with a total distance of about nine miles. Our start was nearly identical to yesterday’s with us  starting nearer the pin end with Gunboat 62 Elvis ahead and below, the only boat closer to the pin. The race can only be described as really good fun!   I haven’t experienced anything quite like it. There’s something about sailing a 53-foot catamaran flying a hull going to  weather at speeds approaching 16 knots, with a 62-foot cat doing the same thing less than a boat length away. 

It was again a very tight race with Fujin and Elvis leading the way for the rest of the fleet. We are very closely matched in boat speed and swapped places a couple of times during the race. At these speeds laylines and mark roundings came quickly and we had to be on our toes and thinking ahead to the next maneuver. Our top speed on the second run was 26 knots!  Fujin barely hung on to correct over Elvis by a mere 15 seconds.

The race committee wisely chose to call it a day as strong thunder storms were heading our way. On the hour-long motor back to the dock it rained hard with plenty of lighting and thunder.  Evidently Elvis has rum on tap and they were kind enough to share, by mixing some in a 2-liter bottle with a bit of coke then the bottle over to us while under way. Little did they know that we were staying close to them on the assumption that any lighting would hit their taller mast not ours! 

The forecast is for rain near the starting time, but the breeze should be blowing enough to allow for an on time start.  Boat call is 0900 and it’s 0825 now.  Time to wrap it up.

Ed. Note: Thanks again Brad. Keep it going PNWers! Regatta web site here. Results so far are lovely.